So, blogging, we meet again. It’s been quite some time. To be honest, I don’t like to blog just to blog; I have a journal for that. I need some type of inspiration or experience that I think would make an awesome blog post.
As many of you know, I work for a boat company in Boston. I give tours on the Charles River during the day, and bartend on the boat at night. It is rare for someone to say that they enjoy their job, but I can honestly say I do. The 40-50 hour work week can be pretty crazy at times, but the boat life isn’t all that bad.
I have found that people watching from the ticketbooth has been one of my favorite past times–watching tourists take pictures in front of our boats that they don’t even buy tickets for, seeing their fascination with the fountain in the middle of the Lechmere Canal as if they have never seen a contraption spurt water out before, and witnessing them eat Dunkin’ Donuts for the first time acting like it’s the best donut they’ve ever had.
Working for this company has introduced me to the best–and the worst–of the tourist spectrum. I meet people from all over the world on a daily basis, some of don’t speak a lick of English but still want to buy tickets for a strictly English-based narration. I regret to say that stereotyping has been a common past time in this job, because it’s really hard not to. I do get frustrated at times with people who grew up in other cultures, because their mannerisms are no where close to what mine are.
I was asked by my mom in the beginning of the summer, “Why do you love the job so much?” At the time, I told her that being on a boat all day is relaxing and everyone I work with is really cool. Both of those are still true, but after working there 2 months, I have found that this job is more than riding on a boat with cool co-workers. Interacting with people from all over the world and informing them on where I am from is way more satisfying than I had ever imagined. Seeing their faces light up when I talk about the Citgo sign at Fenway, or hearing the gasps when I tell the story about the 420 Harvard books makes me appreciate where I am from so much more. It’s incredible to observe people’s fascination with something that is so familiar to you.
It is usually the Canadians or the southern folk that come up to me on the tour, asking me more about myself, where I go to school, things like that. It is rarely anyone from out of country. There have been two instances where people from out of country have approached me and it is these people who made me realize why I truly do love my job.
The first one was from Dubai, studying at Harvard Grad School. It was his first time ever being in America. We talked for the entirety of the Sunset Cruise (a cruise where I don’t give tours, just bartend) and hearing his perspective on America was absolutely fascinating and way different than I thought. He was staying with his friends in Cambridge for three months, and although most of his time here was devoted to his studies, he was able to find time for more enjoyable things as well. He told me about all of the underground Cambridge restaurants that he had explored, some of which his friends from Cambridge hadn’t even heard of. His trip to Cape Cod consisted of convincing a restaurant owner to stay open later just for them, leading to the owner personally cooking a delicious seafood meal just for them. This man told me he hadn’t done too many “touristy” things because he said the touristy things offered in Dubai don’t really define what Dubai really is.
He told me whenever I travel, don’t be afraid to stray off the path where the tour guide is leading you, find something cool and different, something that gives you more than just a tangible picture. I then asked him what he thought about the people in America. He laughed and simply said, “I was shocked.” He went on to describe what his original perspective on Americans were, which was: obese and unfriendly. He told me he couldn’t be more wrong. His favorite part of his trip so far was the amount of intellectuals that he has met. The amount intelligent conversations that he shares with people on a daily basis is incredible to him. He then looked at me and said, “See? This conversation we are having right now I will never forget. It is a meaningful conversation and people don’t have enough of them these days.”
My next encounter was a man from South Africa. Again, this was on a Sunset Cruise and he overheard me talking to my co-worker about how I am hoping to study abroad in Cape Town in the spring. He turns his head and says in his thick accent, “Cape Town? That’s where I’m from!!” He began to tell me all about it, all of the hidden gems in the country that I have to check out when I am there.
There was one place that stuck out, I can’t remember the name of it for the life of me, but the way this man described it sounded amazing. It’s a concert venue that hosts popular artists such as Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews Band, but it is in the middle of the mountains. You drive for a while to get there, but the drive, he said, isn’t all that bad because nothing beats sticking your head out the window and breathing in the clean air, being able to see the gorgeous pink and orange sunset beyond the mountain range.
He gave me tips and advice about Cape Town, what sights to see and what places to avoid. Similar to the man from Dubai, his main point was that I needed to explore beyond the comforts of the tourist zone. “Outside of Cape Town, explore the poor villages, get a taste of what Africa, as a whole, is really about.”
The excitement in his eyes as he was describing his home country reminded me of the satisfaction I get from giving a tour about Boston. When you explore outside of your comfort zone, you are reminded of the beauty of where you are from as well. There are some people that are just born to travel, and I believe that I am one of them. I love Boston and everything that it stands for, but I’m ready to see what else is out there. I want to explore the unknown, go somewhere my tour guide warns me about, experience the new and unfamiliar. So, why do I love my job, you ask? I get to appreciate where I’m from as well as get introduced to cultures outside of my own all at the same time.
Life is a beautiful thing, don’t waste it on only ever experiencing the familiar. Open yourself up to people who challenge your beliefs and culture, because if we don’t, than how do we ever know what our beliefs even are?